Are You There, Me? It’s Old Me.

I just asked my kid to get his hands out of his pants. Again. For the 379th time today. I have asked his sister the same thing, approximately half as many times as well. They are 5 and 3. Where do we go from here?! Or, more importantly, how did I get here?!

What I mean is, I used to have a job outside these four walls. I showered, got dressed, applied makeup (usually while stopped at traffic lights, whatever) and went out into the world. I had coffees and lunch dates and adult conversations. Itscocktailthirty was usually a martini or four, made with top-shelf liquor. But today…
 
Coffee – from our coffee maker (it’s not even a french press), lukewarm by the time I transferred it into a to-go cup. That I hastily rinsed the remnants of yesterday’s coffee out of.
 
Lunch – finally happened around 3. Because every time I tried before that, my lunch ended up in someone else’s mouth. Seriously, these two eat like teenagers.
 
Adult Conversation – Toss up between a conference call which I spent mostly muted because the kids could not stop talking over me and sporadically mumbling half-sentences at a girlfriend as we browsed the aisles at Whole Foods and fielded phone calls from our business partner spouses. With our kids, of course. Because when are we not with our kids???
 
Itscocktailthirty – Wine. From a box. At 4pm sharp. Okay, maybe it was 3:45. But I round up to the nearest whole hour.
 
It could be worse. We could be out of wine. Or I could be pregnant. Or my kids could have their hands down someone else’s pants. See? Silver lining, people.
 

Going Back to Work: When is it Time?

We have been away for a little over 24 hours on a little "staycation" in the mountains. After five years of being a mama, I know this is usually how long it takes to clear out the fog of mommy-brain and just be. After eight years of being a wife, I also know this is usually how long it takes for us to decompress, unplug and get a little clarity.

And because we work together, we spend a lot of time talking about work even when we are "on vacation." Where is our company headed, and what role do I want to play in the company as the kids get older and need me less? Is the status quo working for either or both of us? Then, inevitably, the big question –

Is it time for me to go back to work full time?

I work now. But not full time, and not outside of the house. There are action figures on the window-sill of my office and Barbie dolls under my desk. I don't communicate via telephone because I can't trust the tiny humans to stay quiet long enough to complete a phone call.

This is the way I wanted it. It has worked for us for a long time. But I wonder how much longer it will work for. Lately, every time I am on the computer, a tiny human pops up with big, sad eyes and says "Mama, stop working, I want to play with you." I feel horrible about it. I can buy a little time by giving them the iPad or turning on a show outside of "screen time" limits but I still feel bad about it.

On the flip side, our little company is having a few growing pains. R could certainly use more help, but we both know when I say I can – even though my intentions are good – I really can't do much more than I already do. And I feel bad about that.

How will I know for sure when it's time to go back full time?

I've been thinking about it all day, and I still don't know. I know these years with my kids seem long but in retrospect they will be incredibly short. And I may wish I could go back and make different choices. T will start kindergarten in the fall, and A will pick up more days at preschool. And here are the things I know for sure:

  • No Daycare: There is a huge difference between preschool and full time daycare; I want A to experience the former but not the latter. T never had to and I want them to be even. (Note: if your kid is in daycare, I am not judging you. This is about me.)
  • Dream Job: I've got a good thing going right now. And if I choose to leave it, it will need to be for the perfect opportunity. Which in this economy may be as likely as winning Powerball. But still.
  • It's About Me: Kids are resilient. What they think is normal is still largely determined by R and I. My mom loves to remind me that she stayed home with us for the first years of our lives and we don't even remember. My kids are not going to be ruined because I went back to work.
  • And a Little Bit About Them: My mom is right, we don't really remember. But that doesn't mean that we don't know that she stayed home with us as long as that was the right choice for our family. What I do remember is how hard my mom worked when it was time for her to go back to work, and all the other things she did at the same time. And because she did both things it never occurred to me that I couldn't do anything I wanted when the time came for me to choose.

I guess I must not be 100% ready; it is not time yet. But it may be time to start doing more networking, catching up with old colleagues and seeing what else is out there. Because even in a down economy, job opportunities will come up. Maybe when I see the perfect one, I will know I am ready.

Stay-At-Home Moms Vs. Working Moms

Now that I'm thirtysomething, the majority of my peer group are parents to youngish children. That means ultrasound photos on my Facebook newsfeed, sharing mommy blogs and joking (sort of) about if drinking and hands-on parenting are mutually exclusive.

It also, for moms, means defending their decision to stay at home with their kids. Or not stay home with their kids. And here's the thing about the whole "stay-at-home moms vs. working moms mompetition" – 

I don't care what you do with your kids or with your job.

I am not judging you. I don't really care why you're working…or not working…or thinking about working. And if I have to read another blog where women are defending themselves about working, or staying at home, I might scream. (I mean, aside from this one, of course.) 

I am confident that we are all doing what works best for ourselves, our kids and our families. So can we please all agree to knock it off with the mompetition where we tell each other why the choice we have made is harder than anyone elses? It is not. You know what else it is not? Anyone else's business.

If you want to, and can afford to, stay at home with your kids – you are an awesome mom. If you want to, or have to, go to work part or full time – you are an awesome mom. Stop justifying your choices and engaging in the "stay-at-home moms vs. working moms" mompetition. No one who is worth it would ever ask you to. 

Coparenting (Gratitude – Day Five)

Today I am grateful for my husband and a favorable balance of work and coparenting. Today. Not every day, but today.

People often look at me funny when I mention working with my husband – as in, we co-own our marketing agency – I get it. It usually goes like this:

"So what do you do?"
"My husband and I own a marketing agency that powers online growth for small to medium sized businesses."
"Wow. So you work together…all the time?"
"Yup. And most of the time we work from home, which is easier for me because I can work around the kids' schedules."
"So you spend a lot of time together." 
"Oh yes. We are together. All. The. Time." 

I would say most of the time the conversation ends there, and about half the time is met with the same reaction as if I said "well I am legally his first wife, but he has a few other wives and children that live with us as well because it really does take a village to raise a child and all that."

Is working with my husband easy? No. Did it take a looooong time to figure out how to work together without yelling (him) or crying (me)? You bet. But it works for us, and here's why – we believe in coworking and coparenting. He helps me with the kids more than 99% of the dads I know; I help him with the business more than 99% of the wives I know.

There are times where I think we are crazy. I miss having coworkers to grab coffee and gossip with. But I am endlessly grateful that when we had the kids, he listened when I said I wanted us to raise them the majority of the time and we found a way to make that work. And at the end of the day, I love working with my husband and coparenting with him because it feels like there is someone who has my back. All. The. Time.

Especially on days like today, where even though it was my turn to get up with the kids, he did. After the first full day of daylight savings – and we all know the second day is worse. Today, I am grateful for that.

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If you are considering working with your husband – and we have friends who have asked our advice on this – keep these things in mind.

  • Know Your Limits: This is probably the most important thing – I know married people who love each other but their relationships often benefit from time apart. Most people need time to breathe and be on their own. For many people, that means going to work and having a professional life completely independent of a spouse. If that's you, do NOT consider working with your husband or wife.
  • Leave It At Work: It is important to leave work stuff at work. This is a "do I say, not as I do" tip. We are horrible at this one, and I hate to admit how many nights we have dinner out or fall asleep at night talking about work. But with two tiny humans running around (see above, working from home) sometimes that is the only time we can get an uninterrupted word in. But try not to do it. Seriously.
  • Don't Take It Personally: It took us (me) the longest time to figure this one out. Any time R criticized me about something work-related, I would cry. And he would be like, "seriously? Crying? Have you ever cried when a boss yelled at you before?" For me it was a challenge, and for him the challenge was speaking to me like a coworker and not his wife. And we both still slip, but we have gotten exceedingly better at it.

Working with my husband is often work and always a work-in-progress. But it is the right choice for us, and for the tiny humans, right now.